Inbound marketing focuses on attracting customers by using helpful and relevant content that adds value value at every stage in your customer's buying journey. With inbound marketing, potential customers find you through channels like blogs, search engines, and social media. So its a great way to achieve goals like bridging the gap between current growth and target growth, getting ahead of the competition, building brand awareness etc.
This guide to running an inbound marketing campaign will teach you all about how to plan and implement inbound marketing campaigns and covers topics such as:
Learn how Inbound Marketing matches todays buyers behaviour and why traditional outbound marketing is no longer as effective.
The way people buy has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. Traditional outbound marketing tactics like Interruptive advertising, cold calling and mass emailing are all very 'marketer-centric'.
In recent years, control over the process has shifted from the Marketers to the Buyers, and as a result, these types of tactics don't work as well as they used to.
That's where Inbound marketing comes in. Inbound Marketing is buyer-centric and focuses on using quality content that educates and attracts people towards your business. Tactics such as Blogging, SEO, Lead Nurturing and Email marketing that align with your target audience’s needs help move them onwards towards a sale.
Inbound marketing can help you bridge the gap between current revenue and target revenue by helping you
Take a look at the main differences below between Inbound Marketing and traditional Outbound Marketing:
Inbound marketing is all about providing valuable, useful content that helps your target audience at the different stages of the buying process (or in Inbound terms, the 'buyers journey').
Because Inbound is all about the buyers, you must start by clearly defining your target audience. These definitions are called 'Buyer Personas' and are critical to successful inbound marketing strategies. Having an in-depth understanding of your buyer’s preferences, pain points, challenges, etc. will enable you to be able to speak directly to them.
According to a HubSpot study in 2016,
Only 29% of people want to talk to a salesperson to learn more about a product, while 62% will consult a search engine.
If you want to attract some of this 62%, then inbound marketing is a great way to achieve this.
If your content resonates with your prospects, then inbound marketing can generate 3 times as many leads at 62% less cost than traditional marketing.
The inbound marketing methodology is divided into 4 stages: Attract, Convert, Close and Delight. During each stage different tactics are used as you can see below:
Attract the people who are most likely to become leads and go on to become customers. Your ‘ideal’ customers. The Inbound Marketing methodology employs many tactics to attract your buyer personas such as your Website, SEO, Blogs and promotion on Social Media.
Once you’ve attracted the right kind of website visitors, the next step is to convert those visitors into leads by offering them some valuable content in exchange for some of their contact information e.g. First name and email address.
Create premium content offers such as eBooks, Whitepapers and Checklists along with Landing Pages, Calls to Action, Forms and a CRM to store the data.
Once you have attracted the right visitors and converted them into leads, you need to transform those leads into customers. Use email marketing for lead nurturing, a CRM to track activity with leads and closed loop reporting to measure success. Marketing automation will help ensure regular contact with leads as they go through the process.
Inbound marketing is all about providing remarkable content to your visitors, leads, and existing customers. Even after a sale, you need to continue to engage with, delight, and hopefully convert your customers into happy promoters of the organization and products/services they love.
Learn about how Inbound Marketing Campaign's work and what assets you'll need to create.
Now that you know what Inbound Marketing is, we will look at what an Inbound Marketing Campaign is.
A campaign, in Inbound terms, is defined as a marketing push, run across some connected channels that is centred around one single goal or message. They are often time-related, focused on a particular event (e.g. webinar) or around a specific piece of premium content, e.g. A 'How to Guide" that's relevant and helpful for your target audience.
Let's have a look at the conversion process:-
Inbound Marketing Campaigns consist of all or some of the following elements :
Before we get into the detail of inbound marketing campaigns, we need to look at the basics that create a strong foundation for your campaign's. For any marketing to be successful, you need to know who you are speaking to - your ideal buyers. In Inbound, Buyer Personas are used to define semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer.
These profiles are developed from market research and real data about your existing customers (through surveys, interviews, information from departments like sales, customer service etc.). They include demographics, communication preferences, background (personal and career), challenges, goals, definition of success etc.
Depending on your business, you may just have as few as one or two personas, or as many as 10 or more.
Tip: If you're new to developing personas for your business, then make sure you walk before you can run. Start with 1-3. You can always create more personas later once you get the key ones together.
Having well-researched personas, will allow you to personalise and target your marketing. Example, you can define campaigns for a specific buyer persona, segment your lead list by buyer persona and tailor your messaging according to what you know about those different personas.
Take a look at this subsection of a buyer persona for an IT Manager:
Immediately you can see some of the challenges this persona is facing. As you are trying to solve challenges and address pain points for your target audience you should use this information to identify content and offers that will be of value to them at each stage of the buyer's journey.
In a previous blog "How To Attract Ideal Clients to your Website" we outlined the key information that comprises a buyer persona. At a high level this includes:
Here are more detailed examples of the types of data you need to collect for your personas:
Buyer persona industry expert Adele Revella was asked In a post on Medium by input.io, what the biggest mistakes companies make when putting together buyer personas were. Adele said that companies are building too many personas based on ‘obvious demographic data’. She says the goal is to gain new insights into why, when and how customers make the decisions you want to influence.
Adele went on to say that ‘When buyer personas describe meaningful variations in your customer’s mindset and frustrations throughout their journey, you’ll know how to align your sales and marketing strategies to earn each persona’s business’.
When you are planning a campaign, you need to have a specific goal (or goals) in mind. All of your marketing goals should come from business goals. The business goal may be translated into a sales goal, and this sales goal translated into a marketing goal - this is why it's so important that everyone is properly aligned.
Take this example
When you are planning your campaign, you need to be able to measure success. In order to do this, you need to make sure that your end goal is a measurable one. So carefully plan your goals and consider using the SMART Goal framework:
When creating a goal, you want it to be as short and specific as possible. Having a goal like "grow website traffic" or "improve email marketing open rates" isn't specific enough. Instead, set goals like "increase leads generated by 10% by end Q2 2017", or "increase email open rates to 60% by end Q4 2017".
When you set any goals you need to be able to measure them. If you can't, then how will you know how you have done? How can you measure success if you don't know what you're measuring against?
Take the example of "increase leads generated by 10% by end Q2 2017". This is a great goal as you know what your current lead generation volumes are and so it is easy to calculate what an increase of 10% will be. You can use this to track month on month against your goal to keep on top of progress and tweak your tactics if its not increasing quickly enough. At the end of Q2 2017 you will know straight away if you hit your goal or not.
SMART goals need to be realistic and attainable. While its admirable to shoot for the stars, it's not a good basis for goal setting and you're unlikely to achieve these types of goals. So setting realistic goals is the best way forward. You can still try to beat them but at least you are being realistic.
So for example if you are currently generating 100 leads per month its not realistic to set a goal of generating 500 leads by the end of next month (unless you have some marketing superpower that is). This is a 500% increase and is a goal you are unlikely to achieve. Setting unachievable goals can demotivate people who are tasked with trying to achieve them too so keep that in mind. SMART goals will actually encourage success and even over achievement.
There's no point setting a goal that doesn't matter to your business or is one that it can't handle.
Say you have limited sales resources. Your goal of "increase leads generated by 10% by end Q2 2017" won't make any difference to company growth if you don't have the salespeople to follow up with these additional leads.
So why set that goal?
In that particular case it may be better to set a goal around converting more leads into customers so your existing sales people can employ better tactics to achieve that goal, be more efficient, review their process etc.
So make sure your goals are relevant or they won't mean anything.
A goal is not a goal if you don't set a date to achieve it. Without a date you have nothing to work towards, there will be no sense of urgency and its unlikely that you will reach it. So be specific about when you want to accomplish your goal and start planning how you will actually achieve it.
Here's a short video summarising SMART goals which includes some useful examples
The template focuses on 3 key metrics - Visitors, Leads and Customers and will help you define your own goals.
Inbound marketing campaigns are structured around a premium 'offer'. By 'offer' we don’t generally mean a discount, we mean something that helps solve a particular challenge or pain-point for your buyer persona.
The offer could be an eBook, Whitepaper, Webinar, Event, Free Calculator, Checklist etc. Different types of offers are used at different stages of the buyer’s journey.
Take a look at the infographic below and the different types of content that are relevant for each stage.
The best way to come up with ideas for your content offers is to look at your buyer personas. For each persona and each stage of the buyers journey map out premium content offers that will be very valuable. Brainstorm them with your team and others like the sales team.
This is a great starting point and once you are up and running with inbound you can start to plan offers around things like new products or services, technologies etc.
Above all your offer needs to
When you have mapped out and prioritised your content offers you are ready to start implementing them.
Tip: Make sure your offer is put together professionally and is in line with brand messaging, branding etc.
So, you’ve set your goals and decided on a content offer for the campaign. Now you need to get the rest of the components in place. Let's start with your landing page.
The Landing Page is the page that you want to drive traffic to for your campaign. It will describe your offer, it’s where they will decide whether or not your campaign offer is valuable enough for them to provide their details.
If you want your visitors to convert on your landing page, you need to spend time on the design and copy for the page to maximise conversions. You don't have long to convince your visitor to convert so you need to make sure that you answer the following quickly:
Landing Pages have the following key components:
In order to keep visitors focused while on your landing page you need to remove all navigation links on landing pages i.e. No menu. Having navigation on this page is a distraction and your goal is to keep the visitor on this page so that they provide their details.
Tell your visitors what they are going to get and how they are going to get it.
An easy formula to follow when drafting a headline is to ... use an action verb + explain what the offer is + explain the offer’s benefit to the visitor
Make sure your header passes the ‘blink test’. Test this by getting some colleagues to look at the landing page quickly and tell you what the offer is all about and how it will help them if they were a visitor.
A subheadline can be used to summarise the value of the offer. Again - take your time putting this together as it may impact conversion rates if its not right.
The copy included in this section can mean the difference between someone converting and someone not. Keep it short and concise - approx 1-3 sentences. Make sure your copy explains how someone will benefit from the offer.
Use formatting to emphasise important points, e.g. bolding text and bullets. This will also make the copy easy to scan.
An image speaks a thousand words. People consume images quicker than they do text, so they're much more powerful. Include a relevant image that represents the offer whether it’s in the body of the page or in the format of a hero image behind the headline at the top of the page.
The length of your form should mirror the value of the offer. If it is a particularly valuable piece of content then you can try using slightly longer forms but note that the length of the form will have a direct impact on conversions.
Ever leave a landing page that is asking for too many details?
When deciding on fields to be included ask yourself questions like...
We often talk with businesses who wonder why their landing pages with 10 form fields don't convert. People don't like long forms so keep it as short as possible based on the value it offers.
Tip: Make sure the form is above the fold (top part of website page) so the visitor doesn’t have to scroll down.
A visitor who lands on your landing page may consider it as high-value content and something they want to share. So consider including social sharing options for key channels.
Although the footer is not a key component - don't forget it - make sure it matches your website footer for a consistent experience.
Here’s an example of one of our high converting landing pages:
Further Engage Your Prospects
Ever convert on a landing page and see a small inline message lost on the page somewhere to say thank you. This doesn’t provide a great experience, nor is there anywhere for your visitor to go next.
So if you want to keep your visitors engaged, the next thing you do after a conversion is show a ‘Thank You’ page.
Use a thank you page to say thanks and to provide an opportunity for your prospect to engage further. Guide them based on what they have just done. Example you can
Thank You pages are a great opportunity and not one to be missed.
Here are some guidelines for your Thank You pages
If the offer is something like a Free Assessment then set expectations as to when they should expect to hear from you, e.g. we will email you within 2 business days to set up a meeting
Unlike Landing Pages, Thank You pages should include navigation options at the top of the page. Now that your prospect has converted you want them to take a look at the website in more detail.
If you have any additional content that relates to your offer, then consider presenting it here. E.g. Related Blog Posts
Some leads who’ve just converted may well be ready to move further along the buyer’s journey. If that’s the case having another offer on the Thank You page will give them the opportunity to do this.
Extend your reach on social networks by including sharing options on this page for the main campaign landing page.
Send a ‘Thank You’ email with a link to the Thank You Page in case the lead needs to download the offer again.
Now that you have created your offer, landing pages etc., you need to start promoting it and getting as much qualified traffic to it as you can. Here's a few tips on how to promote it.
Firstly you need to make sure you have well designed CTA's - Calls to Action. You can create a plain button CTA, an image based CTA etc. These can be placed on website pages, blog posts, other campaign offer thank you pages, emails, email signatures etc. to help spread the word.
Here are a couple of examples of ours that we have included in blog posts so that you can see the difference:
If you are using Marketing Software like HubSpot you will be able to track metrics like Views, Click Rate, Clicks, Submission Rate, Submissions and pages they were clicked on from your CTA's.
More advanced software like HubSpot, some plans allow you to A/B test different variations of your CTA which is very useful in helping you to figure out what works best for your audience.
Blogging is one of the most effective ways of driving traffic to your website and to a campaign offer. In a recent HubSpot survey they found that
B2B companies that blogged 11+ times per month had almost 3X more traffic than those blogging 0-1 times per month.
HubSpot also found that 1 in 10 blog posts are compounding, which means that organic search increases their traffic over time. The impact of this is that your CTA's for your campaign will continue to get views and conversions. If you are using marketing software to track visitors to your blog pages you will notice this over time.
When planning your campaign you will have put together a list of relevant blog posts to promote your offer. Put these into a content calendar with due dates so that the whole team know whats due and when.
If you need some tips on writing optimized blog posts check out our recent blog article 10 Steps to Writing an Optimized Blog Post.
As you write the blog posts make sure you promote them on various channels like social media along with using email to get them out to existing contacts.
Tip: Make sure you include CTA's in every blog post you publish. Mix them up until you fund out what works best. Example: Include a Link CTA (yes just a line of text and a link!) or Button CTA after the first couple of paragraphs of the post (in case readers dont read until the end of the post) and then an Image CTA down the bottom of the post. One that stands out.
Social media helps get your content in front of the right people and spread the word about your business. As part of developing your personas, you will have identified the social platforms that they are most active. If you are new to social media, try starting with just 2 rather than trying to build a presence on all of them at once.
Use social media to promote your posts around your offer using relevant hashtags. By using relevant hashtags, you will be able to reach existing followers as well as a new audience.
To catch your audiences attention on social media - publish your blogs and landing page promotions with
Now that you have a new offer (and related blog posts), you need to look and see which of your existing leads, subscribers or customers may find it valuable. Here are some ideas for what you can do with email marketing to promote your campaign
Paid search is a great way of boosting your promotion efforts instantly. Look at your keywords for the campaign, related blog posts and if you want to keep the costs down, using long tail keywords may be a better option. The volume may be lower, but aside from the potential cost advantages, you may reach a more qualified audience with higher chances of conversion.
Display advertising is another good option but make sure you have a well-designed and catchy display ad!
Tip: Don’t just focus on AdWords, look at some PPC on Bing too.
Paid promotion on social media is another good option and particularly with recent changes in post priorities on channels like Facebook.
Execute your paid social on the top channels where your personas are present. Look at LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc.
Use specially created 'audiences' and retargeting to promote your offer to people who may be interested in it.
Yes – people forget to put their offer on their website! Again if you are using software like HubSpot Marketing, you can embed a HubSpot image based CTA directly on your website pages.
Also, consider setting up a ‘Resources’ Page and ad a link on your navigation too where visitors can see all of your campaign offers. You will have visitors that didn’t originate from social or paid channels so this will be there for anyone looking at your site from organic or direct traffic.
Check out our Free Resources page here for some inspiration.
List segmentation is about breaking up your contact list into smaller segments. They can be sliced and diced whatever way suits your needs e.g.
By segmenting your list you can send more personalised content - content that is more relevant, timely an engaging for a particular group of contacts. Content that may help move contacts further along the buying process or further educate existing customers.
Segmentation is so effective that it's reported that
62% more clicks are received on targeted email sends compared to non-segmented lists.
Tip: When you are planning your forms and the information you need to get from subscribers, you need to consider segmentation. What information will you need to do segmentation that will be beneficial?
List segmentation is mainly about generating new customers but is very beneficial for cross selling and upselling to existing customers so keep this in mind too.
Don't Let Visitors Convert and Forget
Lead nurturing is a significant part of inbound marketing. It's a system that allows you to send an automated series of emails to early stage leads in order to qualify them before handing off to your sales team.
Lead nurturing enables marketers to connect quickly with their contacts and remain top of their prospects minds. If you are not nurturing early stage leads you are wasting money.
Consider these statistics
Take for example someone who is at the top of the funnel and converts into a lead. It’s generally not the right time to pick up the phone and call them.
Instead set up automated lead nurturing emails and send them relevant content spaced out over a couple of weeks. Note that the timing here will depend on the length of your sales cycle - e.g. if your sales cycle is typically a month then space the emails out over a month.
Try and mix up your content and send some different formats e.g. Blog Posts, Video’s, Infographics etc For example
Once you set lead nurturing in place be sure to keep an eye on how they engage with those emails and content, and tweak if necessary to try and improve results.
Example of what a sequence might look like
Step 1: Set your goal
Before you set up your lead nurturing you need to have a clear goal in mind. It may be to try and warm up some old cold leads or maybe increase the quality of your lead.
Step 2: Choose your Buyer Persona
Decide on who it is you are trying to reach e.g. is it IT Manager Mark or CFO Frank. The type of lead nurturing you set up for these different personas is likely to be completely different.
Step 3: Use Existing Content
Content is key to lead nurturing. Look at the content you already have in place and see what fits your lead nurturing goal. If you don't have anything suitable then make a plan to create some.
Step 4: Set a timeline
Your timeline should fit in with your sales cycle. Include about 3 lead nurturing emails and space out appropriately.
Step 5: Measure and improve
You must know what's working and what isn't. Look at some metrics that align to your goal, measure and try and improve on results.
Here are a few ideas for your lead nurturing campaigns...
1. Compelling Subject Line
If you're subject line isn't compelling then your emails won't get opened - it's that simple. Be as specific as possible and try keep it under 80 characters.
2. Short is Sweet
Most people quickly scan emails when they open them to see if they are of interest. With this in mind, keep your lead nurturing emails short and to the point if you want them to be read.
3. Make Your Emails Personal
Make the recipient feel like you have written the email just for them. Remember that your emails aren't targeted at a company they are targeted at a human working for that company. Use data you have collected like first name, company name etc to give them that personal feel.
4. Keep Content Relevant
Consider what your lead has downloaded to date and make the content of your lead nurturing emails relevant to that. if you want to move them further along in the process consider their next step. Keep an eye on the interaction with these emails and the content and tweak as required. e.g. if a particular piece of content is getting no 'click throughs' you need to replace it.
5. Call to Action
Don't waste the opportunity - be sure to include a relevant call to action. Your CTA should be linked to the goal of your lead nurturing campaign.
During the planning phase of your campaign you will have defined clear goals and marketing metrics on which the campaign performance will be measured. Some of these metrics may include
Some more campaign analytics marketing should be usng to measure campaign performance are ….
Calls to Action
If you are a HubSpot user then the campaign tool and new analytics reporting will help you easily track progress of your campaign so that you can continuously improve.
If you’re not using HubSpot, then at a minimum you need to create a spreadsheet to track and monitor the results.
Some more advanced metrics you may want to report on are
The Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is a metric used to determine the total average cost your company spends to acquire a new customer.
The Marketing % of Customer Acquisition Cost is the marketing portion of your total CAC, calculat- ed as a percentage of the overall CAC.
The Ratio of Customer Lifetime Value to CAC is a way for companies to estimate the total value that your company derives from each customer com- pared with what you spend to acquire that new customer.
The Time to Payback CAC shows you the number of months it takes for your company to earn back the CAC it spent acquiring new customers.
The Marketing Originated Customer % is a ratio that shows what new business is driven by marketing, by determining which portion of your total customer acquisitions directly originated from marketing efforts.
The Marketing Influenced Customer % takes into account all of the new customers that marketing interacted with while they were leads, anytime during the sales process.
If you would like more detailed information on these advanced metrics, why they matter and how to calculate them then download our free guide 'Marketing Metrics for CMO's and Marketing Managers'.
Channel metris are really important. By regulary monitoring these you can figure out whch channels you should be focusing on. Break them down as follows:
You can also roll up some of these metrics. Example:
Another way to look at performance is to look at metrics like
Measures the number of contacts (new and existing) that have engaged with assets related to the campaigns
Measures the number of newly created contacts, attributed to the campaign that brought them to your site for the first time
Your newly created contacts, attributed to the campaign that most directly contributed to their conversion.
Measures the amount of closed revenue for deals that are related to contacts that have been influenced by the campaign
These metrics will be particularly useful for reporting to the Senior Management Team (or C-Suite). If you are a HubSpot customer then you're in luck as all these business metrics are available in the Campaign Analytics Reporting Module for all your campaigns
Learn how to go about optimising various components of your inbound marketing campaign to maximise conversions
Even the best of marketers are unlikely to get their campaigns perfect first time, which is why optimisation is so important in Inbound Marketing. Even small conversion improvements can have a big impact. You’ve put a lot of work into your campaigns so it’s worth adding a little extra effort while they are running to see if you can ramp it up a little and make a difference to the bottom line.
Start by going back over the landing page best practices and check things like:
Once you have identified some potential weak areas consider implementing some A/B testing (also referred to as split testing). This testing involves setting up a variation of your main landing page with one or two changes for optimisation. The marketing software you use will serve up (or show) one of the 2 pages randomly when a visitor goes to your landing page. You can then track conversions on both.
You may find that the variation has a higher conversion rate than the original (or vice versa) and you may end the test, discard the original landing page and make the new version your Landing Page.
You can then look to further optimise in the same way. I would recommend only 1 to 2 changes at a time so you know what has impacted conversion rates. Generally one change at a time is best.
The conversion path is the step-by-step series of clicks that a visitor goes through on your website, from their first interaction with you to whatever goal you’re trying to accomplish on your site. Called a conversion -- hence the term conversion path -- this goal is usually something like a form completion or a transaction.
So take this simple example of a possible conversion path for a campaign…
So what you want to do is map out your conversion path if you haven’t already. You should have many conversion paths for the campaign. If you have a website page that gets a lot of traffic, like your Homepage, make sure you include a CTA on this if its relevant.
Here are a few more examples of possible conversion paths for your campaign:
LinkedIn post → Campaign Landing Page → Campaign Thank You Page → Next Relevant Campaign Landing Page
Homepage → Campaign Landing Page → Campaign Thank You Page
Email → Campaign Landing Page → Campaign Thank You Page
Email → Blog Page → Campaign Landing Page → Campaign Thank You Page
Maximise these to provide as many opportunities as you can for someone to get to your landing page.
Review your analytics to see what content is attracting the most qualified leads and driving the most conversions.
Try variations of your CTS’s – text, colours, images, placement etc.
Always be looking for opportunities to improve your conversion paths.
Look and see which channels are bringing the most conversions and focus your efforts on these.
For example, you may be posting on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter but if LinkedIn is bringing in the most conversions you may want to divert some of your effort to LinkedIn and ease off other channels.
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The headline and subheader tells us what you're offering, and the form header closes the deal. Over here you can explain why your offer is so great it's worth filling out a form for.